An estimated 1 million Brits now live in Spain – and there are signs that the expatriates are integrating at last into the Spanish way of life according to a report from the timesonline. Graham Forster came to Spain partly in search of the sun. The pretty Andalusian village where he has settled is a 40-minute drive from the coast – or would have been had I been able to find the winding road to it on my map. The 49-year-old Liverpudlian watchmaker found a perfect place to settle in Álora, a whitewashed village in the shadow of an ancient hilltop castle. “I wanted the Spanish lifestyle, rather than Little England in the sun,” he explains, taking a rest from fixing clocks in the afternoon heat.
Five years ago, he moved here with his family. After four years of lessons and considerable help from his neighbours, Forster felt that his Spanish was good enough to open his own shop, which serves Brits and Spaniards in equal measure. “This is it now,” he says decisively. “We’re staying here for good.”
Álora is one of dozens of remote Spanish villages where Britons have settled in recent years. Far removed from the British enclaves on the coast, many of these latest settlers are becoming involved with their adopted villages to an extent their predecessors never dreamt of.
“I think the traditional image of the retired Brit coming to live in the sun is diminishing,” says Bruce McIntyre, the British consul in Málaga. “The normal person who used to come here and live on their state pension can’t now afford to do so.”
Instead, he sees younger people moving over with their families, often entrepreneurial types with successful businesses in the UK.
The UK Foreign Office works under the assumption that more than 1 million Britons are living most or all of the year in Spain – a huge number in a country of 45 million people. In dozens of towns and villages across the sunny south and west of the country, Britons now outnumber Spanish residents by a wide margin.
The latest official figures reveal that 315,000 Britons are registered with their local Spanish authority, giving them the right to vote in local elections. That figure is rising by 15 to 20 per cent a year. For the first time, Spanish politicians are starting to court the British vote in local elections. In places such as Majorca and Alicante province, Britons are themselves being elected as local officials; one town has even had a British deputy mayor.